Continuing on from Part 1
Living with the beast…
I had done it. I had brought the car from a wreck in someone else’s garage to a gorgeous working road car.
“Working” was technically accurate but far from what I wanted from my dream car. It still had drum brakes all around which were worse than just throwing a sail out of the window and hoping for the best.
I had bought a front brake disc conversion kit from the States which my paint wizard Dave had brought back in a shipping container in the boot of a Mustang and it was time to fit it.
Blood, sweat and commitment leads to a quality disc brake kit fitted.
This proved to be a massive undertaking as most of the original braking system hadn’t been touched since the factory I’m assuming.
With much hammering, heating, swearing & WD-40 however success was achieved eventually and I had brakes that would hopefully slow and even stop the giant. The first test of this was slightly terrifying but yielded acceptable results, with some bleeding (from both me & the car) the new brakes proved themselves to be excellent.
I can honestly say that if you are thinking of owning & driving a 60’s muscle car and you are not a stickler for authenticity then front brake discs are essential. Leave the rear as drums as the parking brake works better on that set up and 70% of your braking is done with the front so spend your money there. Why risk the rest of the work you’ve done by trusting you 400BHP car to stop on 40 plus year old brakes?
I wanted the car to be a driver and since it wasn’t a numbers matching car it didn’t matter if I changed things like brakes/paint etc as anything I did to the car to make it better would be increasing its value as opposed to damaging it.
I also wanted it to be a cruiser so making it a bit more pleasant to drive and having watched a lot of ‘Overhaulin’ on Discovery I decided to fit some Dynamat Sound deadening to make the cockpit a bit quieter, there would be plenty of roar from the exhaust I just wanted to kill some of the road noise.
Sound deading fitted: Drivable rating up!
Ok, I had brakes now, I had stalled long enough, it was time for that first real trip, time for my MOT.
I had been told of a “Yank Friendly” MOT centre near where I bought the car so it was a good 30 to 40 minutes away which would be a big day out for my first long drive. I still had red rear lights, brand new brakes, over 400bhp in a muscle car I’d never driven further than the top of my hill, oh yes, I forgot…
It was raining too…
Driving the Charger to the MOT in the rain: Not for the faint hearted.
I know, I know. I should have rescheduled the appointment and gone another day but I was so focused on making it happen, I’d been building up to that date and time for so long I was damned if a few drops of rain were going to stop me.
As it turned out it wasn’t the rain that stopped me, I got through my MOT no problem, the guys there said that they didn’t care about the red lights at the back, they loved the car and made sure it was safe before signing off on it.
I started driving home with a big smile on my face and then…splutter, splutter, cough…
If there’s one thing you need along with your classic car it’s a card for one of our breakdown services as you will call them quite a bit if my experience is anything to go by…
Cliche scenario. Still the RAC must have been over the moon to see such filthy muscle.
Blocked fuel filter as it turns out, which was a relatively simple fix once we got off the hard shoulder of the dual carriage way and onto a side road.
This blocked fuel filter was just the beginning of a series of jobs to make the car better but essentially just prevented it from being on the road. Going through fuel filters pointed to there being a lot of dirt in the tank, removal and inspection proved this to be true as I pulled out several plants and a lot of general filth.
This improved the running of the car by 100% I actually got to take it for a few runs out and use it as car.
I made it to the local cruise a couple of times which was quite a big deal for me. I got to finally stand next to the car in a McDonald’s car park and show it off.
The Charger showing its sheer presence.
There were other jobs that needed doing however, the biggest one being the exhaust which sounded so rough and raw it didn’t really suit the car I wanted it to be.
Again, I found an exceptional local business that was highly recommended by local car folks. All they do is custom-made exhausts. That’s it. I had to book six months in advance for my appointment and I was concerned as I made the trip in town that the car wasn’t running properly and how this would affect the fitting of a new exhaust system.
As it turns out this trip would be just as much of an emotional rollercoaster as my MOT day.
The sound of your car is an important thing, very important. It’s what you’re going to be listening to all of the time while you drive it. It’s what people will come to identify the car by. You want to get that right.
A new exhaust system can change the entire feel of a car.
My old pipes were just that, pipes, straight through from the Headman Headers. They were cobbled together from the pipes that were on the car originally, cut, welded & bolted to fit my new headers. They were too narrow and were suffocating my engine.
Proper pipes changed over with added noise.
My new exhaust system was two and a half inches in diameter with custom made silencers/mufflers/baffle boxes whatever you like to call them.
I was told by Eric my engine guru not to fit an ‘H’ pipe connecting the two pipes (usually fitted just after the gearbox) so as to keep both sides of the engine separate. This means that if there is a problem with the engine you can hear which side the fault is on through the relevant exhaust pipe and therefore narrowing down your search for the fault.
Also it sounded awesome. Even with a slight timing issue on the engine as it came down off the inspection ramp my car finally sounded the way it should.
“Refined Menace” was my overall mandate and this fitted the bill perfectly. A low burble when ticking over but oozing with power, threatening, rumbling danger.
Then the car tried to kill me on the drive home…
Having a front left wheel bearing collapse on you a 70mph on the dual carriageway is not a fun experience, I don’t recommend it at all.
This is where living with a classic American car really comes into sharp focus. You’re never done and since this was one of the new components I’d fitted as part of the new braking system I started to doubt everything I’d done.
It was a hard blow and limping home on a broken bearing may not have been the best idea but I was only a few minutes from home and I was gutted.
Learn from your mistakes, don’t give up etc is all very well and good but nothing is more disheartening than almost having your dream.
Bearings:More of a pain than they can look.
It took a long time to get the broken bearing off the spindle; with all the heat created from the friction it had essentially welded it onto the shaft and it was a tough job cutting it off.
The toughest part of having a car you love it when something goes wrong that shakes you. I didn’t trust the car now, the old stuff as well as the brand new components. It took some getting over.
However, I don’t quit. I fixed the bearing problem, I identified the timing issue which had caused a few misfires and fixed that too.
There are always jobs that need doing; your classic car is NEVER finished, ever. I still have to buy upper door cards for the car, they are cosmetic and not essential so they are not a priority, it annoys me every time I rest my left elbow out of the window as I cruise but I can live with it.
I want to change the points to electronic ignition; I have every piece I need except for an electronic distributor. I know what I need but real life must intrude. The car is a luxury, I’m very fortunate to be able to have it in the first place.
When work is thin on the ground and money is an issue the car will just sit in the garage, I have tinkered with bits and bobs recently but the car has sat for most of 2011 and hasn’t moved. This is a shame but there’s not much I can do.
I recently overhauled the power steering pump, fitting a new set of rubber seals to stop an annoying fluid leak which has plagued the car since I got it. Upon refitting the reconditioned pump I find the steering wheel won’t turn, probably down to an airlock in the system but since I can’t take the car out any more this year or drive it as it’s out of it MOT there is no rush.
I waited a long time, spent a considerable amount of money on the car as well as indulging the patience of my ever supportive wife. I can wait a bit longer.
I will get it back on the road, I will drive the 500 mile round trip to the Mopar Euro nationals at Santa Pod raceway and I will do a quarter-mile in my 1969 Dodge Charger 440ci because it’s ridiculous to me that I won’t.
I own my dream car, that’s a big deal. Sometimes you can have bad dreams and you doubt yourself but occasionally, everything just works out fine for a little while, the sun comes out and you can go for a drive with a couple of mates in your car and have one of the best days of your life.
You can follow Richard here
Thanks to Richard for such a personal journey with his Charger.